Iran plans to join shipping ‘big league’
Iran plans to expand its container fleet in order to extend forward coverage beyond all frontiers as the country sees Western sanctions being lifted as early as January, a senior official says.
Iran’s shipping was among the first sectors hit by US-led sanctions regime which barred the country’s liners from calling at US and European ports. The regime is to be dismantled soon, allowing Iran to put forward a shopping list for giant vessels.
The country’s biggest operator, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), wants to put out orders for Triple E vessels which can carry more than 18,000 containers, its chairman Mohammad Saeidi said.
IRISL’s current fleet includes 158 container vessels, dry bulk carriers and tankers which are expected to return to international traffic in early 2016.
“We expect sanctions to be lifted in January under the comprehensive agreement between Iran and the West. We’ve been away for too long and our priority is to re-enter the international market,” The Wall Street Journal quoted him as saying.
“We have 41 container ships of up to 14,000 containers, but we want to join the big league and Triple Es are a priority,” Saeidi said in interview on the sidelines of the Danish Maritime Days shipping conference, The Journal reported.
Once it has built up a sufficient capacity, the IRISL plans to forge an alliance with the world’s top 15 container operators which control the busiest trade routes by sharing vessels, networks and port calls.
The IRISL “has been touring European countries with major shipping clusters such as Greece, Germany, Cyprus, France and Denmark, to lay the groundwork”, Saeidi said.
“Over the next month we will complete how many ships we need. We will then engage in talks with financiers and yards for orders,” he added.
For its expansion, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines will tap Chinese banks which are providing billions of dollars in loans provided that orders go to the Asian country’s shipyards.
International shipping lines are already stepping up port calls to Iran as the country’s massive maritime trade sector is emerging from the sanctions.
France’s CMA CGM, the world’s third largest container shipping group, was the latest major operator to resume services to Iran in August.
“We are a market of 80 million people and our message is that Iran is once again open for business,” Saeidi said.